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Mike1

Charlotte Vs Cary - Where To Move?

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My wife and I live in the northeast and have friends who live in Apex (right outside Cary) and Waxhaw (Union County right outside Charlotte). We have visited both over the past several months including the Raleigh area. Cary seemed to be a great family town with "low crime", good hospitals close by and good schools (but they seem crowded and kids need to be bused all over). Charlotte is attractive because it has a true city feel with an uptown that seems to be growing. Our concerns about Charlotte though are what seem to be very poor schools (although our friends in Union County near Weddington think the schools there are better), "high crime" and the lack of good hospitals. Overall we wish we could combine the best of both cities and move there. We currently live right outside of NYC and have thought about moving to NC for sometime.

Please provide any feedback you may feel will help our decision making process? Feel free to correct our first impressions noted above. Oh, we also would like to be located in an area with a strong job market for people with business backgrounds. Thanks!

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The schools in Weddington (Weddington Elem, Middle and High) which is in union county, are better than most CMS schools I think. Providence High in CMS though is good.

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CMS is hopefully realizing the problems and are (crossing fingers) working to correct them. The Speaker of the House for NC announced the other day that he's for a state lottery (the states surrounding NC have one) to help aid with funding for the school system. This isn't the first time this has been attempted. If it were to come around I'm sure CMS would have more funding to correct issues that plague the system. Union County schools are indeed better than CMS, I'm a Union County graduate myself.

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And what about crime in Charlotte? There seems to be a lot of gang activity and random shottings? Maybe I'm overreacting. I check out Charlotte's news on the web everyday and it seems like they have tons of robberies, etc. It sounds like they need a police force double the size to get rid of some of these problems once and for all. We do like what Charlotte has to offer in terms of a city in the south. Charlotte has so much to offer in terms of a downtown (Southpark Area) and uptown.

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Is this a comparison of Cary to Charlotte or a comparison of the Triangle to Charlotte. Cary is a suburban town and should be compared to the likes of Huntersville, Matthews, Weddington, etc? In those locales crime is absolutely no problem. Keep in mind there are people being shot dead on Durham city buses, but that probably isn't much concern to the people living in Cary.

CMS had 12 highschools on the list of 100 top highschools in the entire country. At least one was in the top 10. This was the best showing of any highschool in the Carolinas and for that matter most of the country.

Unless you are dying with a very strange and odd illness, you really can't get better hospital care in the United States than what is available in CMC or Presby.

In general both areas, the Triangle & Charlotte, have very good schools, low crime and excellent health care. However since you are mainly asking for opinions I would choose the Charlotte area. It is only 2 hours from the mountains, 3 hours from the beach, has lakes, a growing economy, an unmatched urban atmosphere in the Carolinas, and generally leads the state is almost every positive category. Every time I travel to the Triangle, I get the impression that I have returned to Charlotte of 25 years ago. Thats my opinion and is no better than anyone elses who might have a differeing one.

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Yes, I guess I am comparing the Charlotte metro area vs the Raleigh metro area. I've heard that the elementary schools in Charlotte are good, but the high schools are dangerous and you need to send your kids to private school $$$$.

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That's a really tough one - the Triangle being my sentimental favorite with the academic culture and exciting expansion, but Charlotte is alive with urbanism. You can't beat their downtown. As I sit here thinking of more to say, all I can come up with is: that's a tough one!

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Not trying to be a smart a**, but doesn't seem like you're looking for a city to move to; it sounds like you're looking for a suburb. In my humble opinion, Union County and Cary are both horriffic. Union County is nothing by NIMBY's who liken their 1/3 of an acre lots to a mandate from God, while Cary is a "town" of 106,000 people who pretend they're Mayberry (actually C-A-R-Y is an acronym for "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees", so you'll not hear a Southern Accent there), when they are actually one of the 10 biggest cities in North Carolina.

I'm sure you'll hear lots of people go on and on about how perfect Cary is. They've done a great job of marketing. I mean how many places can call themselves a town (mandated by the "town charter", it will always be the "Town of Cary") with a current poplation over 100,000 people, its build out with current zoning is 140,000 in 2020. It has perfect little stump signs for McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King. How cute. Meanwhile, it's nice little original downtown gets overlooked and passed by. It even has an Amtrak station. It is as bland and boring as anyplace can be.

Union is rife with problems. NC-16 (Providence Rd) connects Charlotte with Waxhaw and travels through Weddington on the way. It is scheduled for widening in 2010 to 4-lanes. According to NCDOT, it carried 23,000 vehicles per day in 2002. 17,000 vehicles per day puts it over capacity. Weddington and it's "zoning gone mad" with one-acre lots, make for what was once beautiful farm land now into McMansions as far as the eye can see. Marvin, which is adjacent to Charlotte and Weddington, is nothing more than a tract housing development with 4-lane Rea Rd taking Escalades and Hummers to Harris Teeter in Ballanytne. Waxhaw, although a great little town (my brother lives there in a 1870s clapboard), is trapped by the limitations of the road network and sends it's kids to a scary high school known as Parkwood in the middle of nowhere.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) get a bad rap. Check out the rankings at the state education web site. Scores are pretty good. Myers Park High School is rated in the top 10 public high schools in America. Like anyplace, choose which neighborhood you live in and get a good school. Cotswold, Myers Park, Barclay Downs, Dilworth, Elizabeth, Foxcroft and even uptown go to Myers Park High. Charlotte gets a bad rap for taxes, too. But you get what you pay for. Union County provides little or no services, has terrible roads (granted Charlotte's not great there either, but it's better than Union), and few parks. Waxhaw has fire and police, but the other towns in western Union use the sherriff's department and volunteer fire.

I know this all sounds very negative, but I feel very strongly in supporting a city by living in one. My taxes go to Mecklenburg and I think I get a bargain for what I am offered. I have no children, but gladly provide my share of CMS money. It's my view that a well-educated populace makes for better living for us all. Likewise, my taxes go to support the Arts and Science Council that provides museums, theatre groups, public arts facilities, and festivals with funding. Now can Charlotte do a better job in managing money? Of course it can, but as a vocal resident who goes to meetings, talks to council members, and stays active in our community, I feel like I'm making a difference for the longevity of my hometown. I give a damn about it by living in it.

Wherever you choose to move, look at Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, not just Cary and Apex. Likewise, if you decide Charlotte's for you, then give the actual City of Charlotte a look, not just the non descript suburbs that surround it. Good luck!

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Wake County Schools (Raleigh/Cary)in general are very good nationally in fact the superintendent won for best school superintendent in 2003 I believe because of the way the schools are run and are dealing with phenomenal growth. The Raleigh/Cary area has much lower crime rate than Charlotte, and surrounding areas. In fact I thought of moving to Charlotte but I had family that discouraged it because of the Crime Rate. Charlotte is definetly more Urban, but for most Cary would do just fine for that right amount of Urban feel. Also of note Cary is consistently listed as one of the best places to live/raise a family so on and so forth.

Depends on you do you favor a more urban life >> pick Charlotte

Favor Better Schools, Lower Crime>> Cary-Triangle

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Let me address Charlotte crime.......don't live in the ghetto. I'm sure moving from New York you can sell your house and afford something nicer than public housing......oh yeah, and don't sell drugs......see, problem solved.

This same thing applies to schools......(though I will admit you do have to be more careful here) Charlotte does have two of the top high schools in the nation (Myers Park and Providence).....I could bore you about the awards they win, or how many perfect SAT scores come from them every year, or blah blah blah......ask some people who live in Charlotte which neighborhoods go to the best schools and there should be no problem.....again, moving from NY, I think you'll find the neighborhoods here a bargain.

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Wherever you choose to move, look at Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, not just Cary and Apex.  Likewise, if you decide Charlotte's for you, then give the actual City of Charlotte a look, not just the non descript suburbs that surround it.  Good luck!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I second that notion. It's commonly accepted as fact that a cul-de-sac in the suburbs is the only place suitable for rasing a family, but I suggest that instead of simply going along with the flow, you should discuss it with your family and weigh all of the options as they pertain specifically to you before you make a choice.

I don't have a family myself yet. I've heard that everything changes once you have children, so I might just not "get it." But I think that lots of people put too much emphasis on quiet seclusion when selecting a place for their family to live.

If you choose to live close to your place of work, your time spent commuting will be much shorter, which will let you spend more time with your family rather than shut in your car by yourself on the highway. Likewise, if you live near stores and restaurants, you have the option of walking there rather than driving - excercise and it can be nice too. If you live in a condo up/downtown, sure you won't have your very own half-acre of land, but you might try to live near a park - which can be even more fun for kids than a fenced in backyard. Kids can also develop a much better sense of place by walking around rather than being shuttled here and there in the sterile box of an automobile.

I grew up in a suburban setting, and I had no concept that personal mobility was even possible without a car until I got to college. The closest store and the closest bus stop was nearly a mile away so the only walking we ever did involved first driving the car to get there. I didn't see my bicycle as anything but a toy. I suppose personal mobility doesn't matter when you're 8 years old and your parents have to keep an eye on you all the time anyway, but once you get to 12 or 13 and can be trusted to do some things on your own, it can be very confining when your parents have to drive you no matter where you go. I can imagine it's not too much fun for parents, either.

Anyway, I'm making a very one-sided argument; the assumption is that you already understand the arguments in favor of a quiet bedroom community, and I'm encouraging you to at least consider the alternative. You end up sacrificing more than you might realize in the name of a slightly lower crime rate and a quiet, secluded atmosphere.

North Carolina's downtowns are nothing like the grungy, crime ridden industrial hellholes that some people associate with the word "downtown." They can be a clean, safe, pleasant, and fun place to live.

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I live in Cary. My family moved here when I was in the sixth grade and I spent the rest of my middle and high school career here. I went to college in Raleigh and proceeded to start my professional life in the area. I don't agree with all the venom Miesian Corners unleashed regarding Cary :D When I was in high school (graduated 1995) I would probably have agreed that Cary is "as bland and boring as anyplace can be", but that has been changing, albeit slowly.

Through the 80s and 90s Cary attempted to display this squeaky clean and almost sterile image--no tall signs (even the Waffle House sign is short, relatively speaking), everything low density residential with small shopping centers, etc. It was basically just a bedroom community for Raleigh, and up until I-540 was completed across North Raleigh, Cary was a much more convenient place to live for RTP commuters. Even today Cary seems almost Truman-Show like in a lot of areas, despite the fact that some of the suburbs are pushing 30+ years old.

Through the late 90s Cary planners acquired a new attitude, they seem to want a bit more from the place. Cary has reached the status of a small city, so its days of being just a bedroom community need to end. It is already home to a lot of businesses and retail options.

Cary has developed a superb plan for their downtown, they have taken a great interest in developing some of the corridors into medium/high density new-urbanist/new-suburbanist developments, they opted to have TWO stations along the TTA rail line (neighboring Morrisville didn't want any at all) and have proposed TOD zoning around the stations.

The existing train station downtown was built in 1994 and complimented the Piedmont intercity train as well as other Amtrak offerings. It is a nice station and was designed to eventually act as a multi-modal station, and will be one of the TTA rail stops when and if the system gets off the ground. It also acts as a C-TRAN (Cary's bus system) and TTA transfer point, and will become more active in the coming months when C-TRAN adopts fixed routes.

See, the old girl is really coming around and trying to become more than a bedroom community. Progress is being made, and everyday Cary evolves more and more into its own city.

On the other hand, I was born in Salisbury (Charlotte CSA county) and spent several years growing up on the NE side of Charlotte across into Cabarrus County. Additionally I lived in Charlotte for almost two years of my adult life--from mid 2002 to early 2004. I really love it there and would move back if the opportunity presented itself.

I love all the stuff going on in Charlotte, and I like the structure of the city. I agree with monsoon that in terms of size and evolution, Charlotte is about 20 years ahead of Raleigh. Though I was sort of young to really remember this accurately, I think it is fair to say that the Raleigh I live in (or near) now is much like the Charlotte I lived near back in the early 80s. Of course both places have a more responsible attitude towards development and such, but I'm referring to the level of activity and the number of people around.

Taken as a whole, Charlotte has a much bigger crime problem. Bear in mind that this may never ever affect you if you live there, but it is still there and there is no denying it. While Charlotte's violent crimes are much higher, I suspect that little vandalism crimes and such in the suburbs aren't much different than Raleigh-Cary.

Either way, I don't think you should be worried about it. If you are paranoid and just need a place with an undeniably safe record, Cary should be your choice. It was ranked safest in the southeast and ninth safest nationally. I tend to think that Wake County schools taken as a whole are better than Mecklenburg County schools, but both systems are a whole lot better than most in the southeast. In either place, your kids will emerge with excellent preparation for college... and NC offers some great universities.

The hospitals in Charlotte are great and you'll be in good hands--I believe they are comparable to those in Wake County (Raleigh/Cary). Durham and Chapel Hill hospitals are on a tier above I believe, but it shouldn't be a concern unless you somehow grow a third nipple or something weird like that. At any rate, you are still close enough to Durham and Chapel Hill if you live in Charlotte. Don't forget about WFU Baptist Hostpital in Winston-Salem!

Wow, what a long post. Sorry, I promise it is a quick read!

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Noff, well said. I certainly mean no disrespect to those who choose to live in Cary; I just don't want to. And I probably need to clairfy my statement about Amtrak. My point was that downtown HAS a station; instead of promoting what could be a very attractive downtown WITH a train station, all I can see going on in Cary is cutesy suburban rubber stamp stuff.

For me personally, I want to live in the center of my region, not on the periphery. Orulz said it perfectly, where as I tend to rant.

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Charlotte is a fabulous city to live. Im currently helping a friend from Ithica NY relocate to Charlotte and I dont even live in Charlotte myself. I will be moving back to Charlotte within the next few years myself.

Check out close in neighborhoods such as Dilworth, Elizabeth, or Myers Park, depending on your income, for a more family oriented area. When people say Charlotte is the most urban city in the carolinas they are correct, however you most likely think of NYC when you think urban, so even Uptown Charlotte will feel more like a walk in the park for you in comparison. Uptown has much to offer.

I would suggest that you actually book a hotel with your family in uptown over a weekend, and actually experience it.

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Does the Raleigh police department have anything like Charlotte's crime mapping system? I went to the following website http://maps.cmpdweb.org/ which was recommended to me by someone at an apartment complex I visited while in Charlotte over the summer. I was informed that representatives at the apartment complexes can't comment about crime in Charlotte, but to go to this website. After a few tries I figured out the website and that's what made me start to rethink whether Charlotte is a safe place to live. The police department's website seemed to show crime all over the place. Where I live in NJ (right 15 minutes outside of NYC) we barely have any crime believe it our not. Growing up we would joke that cops in our town needed 5 police cars to pull someone over for not signaling because they had nothing else to do. Granted times have changed, but we still have very low crime. In the NY area we have towns with crime and other towns known for little crime. In other words most of the violent crimes stay in the bad areas. In Charlotte from reading the news on the web and the police website it seems crime has no borders. I may be wrong as I'm not to familar with most of the roads / areas noted in the news reports. (Making any move takes work, we like the feel of Charlotte a lot but want to be well informed before making any move.) We appreciate everyone's honest feedback!!! Thanks.

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Hahaha, 5 police cars to pull somebody over with a dim taillight--that's Cary :D Aside from the occasional egging of someone's car, that's about all they have to do.

Charlotte is plenty safe. Coming from Cary I didn't really ever feel threatened in Charlotte. Just keep your head on straight and lock your doors, don't keep valuables in your car, etc. No need to pack heat or something crazy like that. Even getting lost in the really bad neighborhoods isn't too big of a deal--people will generally leave you alone.

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I looked at this website, and I saw what you are talking about, but allow me to offer a little insite......most of these reported incidents are on commercial streets....it doesn't really show what is a major road and what is a neighborhood street. I looked at my neighborhood which is very intown, and when I initially looked, it appeared that there was crime all over, but then I counted where there were really located and all but six were at businesses. This seems really good to me considering the neighborhood population is over 5,000.

I'm not going to pretend that Charlotte is as safe as Cary, but I nearly laughed when I saw people hinting that Charlotte could be considered a dangerous place.....in fact I told people in my office, and everyone had a big laugh......if someone door dinging your BMW and not sticking around or leaving their information is your idea of serious crime, then Charlotte might not be the place, but please.....Charlotte has for all intensive purposes almost no crime unless you go looking for it.

Like I said earlier, stay out of the known bad neighborhoods, don't become a drug dealer and you'll be pretty oblivious to any serious crime that may be occurring elsewhere in the city. I can only think of two people reported in the last 10 years that were random murder victims (the most shocking is one woman who was murdered downtown, and the other was a woman out in the suburb of Mint Hill) Every other murder that I can recall has been drug related or against a relative or acquaintance........oh yeah, and the guy who killed the cabbies (he's been caught).......I guess my point is that whatever Charlotte crime statistics may indicate, random violent crime is in my eyes very rare.

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I'll comment one more time (maybe). I looked at the list of the USA's safest and most dangerous places for 2003. In terms of MSA's, no North Carolina city shows up on either list (although Cary did rank #7 as safest incorporated areas under 99,000). I guess that means we're somewhere in the middle. Several South Carolina MSA's showed up, though. Myrtle Beach, Sumter, Charleston are all on the list of most dangerous. It's hotter there; heat does something to folks.

And while I hate to bring this up, it's fact and can't be ignored. Southern cities (in general) have higher crime rates than their Northern counterparts. There's a reason for this: gun ownership is higher here than in the Northeast, thus, there are more chances to stare down the barrel of one if you live in a home where one is present. Some gun toting families like to settle domestic situations by firing bullets at each other. Southerners are more likely to be murdered by a family member than as a random act of violence. Again, it must be the heat.

Thankfully, I come from a liberal SC (yes, they exist!) family that never had firearms present in the house. My brothers and I simply beat each other senseless when we got angry with one another.

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Thanks for all the help! So Charlotte has a few good high schools, but do you have a choice as to where your kids go to school or does the county just bus your kids anywhere? Up north people pay a premium to live in a town with good schools and are told that if you live in this area this is where your kids will go to school, but it doesn't sound like that in Charlotte. That is the only reason I'd consider living in Union County (i.e. Weddington or Waxhaw so I know that my kids will hopefully go to somewhat good schools).

I saw a website the other day www.dumpcms.com (I think that was it.)

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Thanks for all the help!  So Charlotte has a few good high schools, but do you have a choice as to where your kids go to school or does the county just bus your kids anywhere?  Up north people pay a premium to live in a town with good schools and are told that if you live in this area this is where your kids will go to school, but it doesn't sound like that in Charlotte.  That is the only reason I'd consider living in Union County (i.e. Weddington or Waxhaw so I know that my kids will hopefully go to somewhat good schools).

I saw a website the other day www.dumpcms.com (I think that was it.)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'll say it again, Union County schools are not all they're cracked up to be. My nephew goes to Parkwood High near Mineral Springs (he lives in Waxhaw). Parkwood Middle is across the street where he was also a student. They're both 7 miles from downtown Waxhaw. Both were built in the 60s and offer little in the way of "extras". Add to the formula that Union's tax base is dwindling (all those new houses don't pay as much in taxes as industrial/commercial users do), and you have a county that is setting itself up for disaster. Cabarrus County northeast of Charlotte found itself in a similar place a couple of years ago. It found out the hard way that explosive residential development doesn't provide the tax base needed to support the services all those new residents require.

I'm not trying to blow smoke here. I am working on a comprehensive plan for one of the towns in Union and they are in serious trouble. They have no tax base at all. Suddenly all these new residents want services and there ain't no money. It amazes me that people can't see the forest for the trees. Folks flock there for "low taxes" and then expect that government will be able to give them all they had in Charlotte or Raleigh or wherever. Doesn't work that way.

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Thanks for all the help!  So Charlotte has a few good high schools, but do you have a choice as to where your kids go to school or does the county just bus your kids anywhere?  Up north people pay a premium to live in a town with good schools and are told that if you live in this area this is where your kids will go to school, but it doesn't sound like that in Charlotte.  That is the only reason I'd consider living in Union County (i.e. Weddington or Waxhaw so I know that my kids will hopefully go to somewhat good schools).

I saw a website the other day www.dumpcms.com (I think that was it.)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

In the late 1990s, a group of parents sued CMS to end court order busing which was imposed on the city in the late 60s. This case went to the US Supreme Ct. which ruled in favor of the parents which effectively ended court ordered busing in the entire USA. (though school systems have dealt with it differently) Ironically busing begain in Charlotte as it was involved in the other Supreme Ct. case that started it in the first place.

The end result is what is now know as the "choice" plan. You kids are guaranteed a seat in their home school and can bid, via lottery, on seats in other schools. The main complaint of the dumpCMS group is that CMS does not spend enough money on suburban schools and as a result they are way over crowded. They would like to see CMS broken up and the more local control be given over the school system. There are several proposals, and of course the powers in CMS don't want this to happen.

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Mike....what monsoon said is correct, but I just want to make sure there is no confusion. In Charlotte, you know when you buy your house or rent an apartment where you kid will go to school, so if you decide that one of the mentioned target schools is where your children must go, then tell the real estate agent and they have the capacity to filter out houses to just show you ones that will go to your preferred school.

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Charlotte also has a magnet school program as well, so there are other opportunies to go to school in many parts of the county.

Keep in mind that if the school system is broken up, it all changes.

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